In its 2016 issue “The Best 380 Colleges,” The Princeton Review named Brandeis University the number one school for community service.
The Princeton Review surveyed students at hundreds of colleges to complete this ranking for the first time. Brandeis has long prided itself on its students’ commitment to community service, with its historic championing of social justice, an active Department of Community Service and about 20 community service organizations on to campus. One such club is The Waltham Group, with 20 specialized service groups under its umbrella. Brandeis also has a program by which students can log their service hours through their SAGE account. Students with a certain number of hours receive the Commitment to Service Award medal to wear at graduation.
Many were proud to hear of The Review’s ranking. In an email to The Brandeis Hoot, Director of Community Service Lucas Malo stated, “I was honored that our students indicated that they were engaged in service during their time at Brandeis.” According to Malo, students log around 60,000 hours of service each year, though he estimates the actual total is much higher, as not all students log their hours. The Department of Community service operates according to the motto, “Within Community Comes Unity.”
“Our [community service] programs are sustainable and most importantly student-led from start to finish,” Malo reflected. He explained that community service allows students to gain experience with real-world problems and solutions. He believes that students learn valuable lessons and develop strong values through service.
He continued to state that, “There is no quintessential service at Brandeis, as each program is unique, but at each core is a desire to learn, grow and genuine care for being actively engaged.”
Malo and leaders of community service groups at Brandeis agree that student volunteers are passionate about their work and that community service is integral to the Brandeis experience.
“Just seeing the passion some people have has inspired me to do more and work harder both as a volunteer and as a leader,” said Kaiwen Chen ’16, co-president of the Waltham Group in an email to The Hoot.
The Waltham Group is the largest community service organization at Brandeis, with 20 service groups under its umbrella. These programs range from General Tutoring, which partners Brandeis tutors with Waltham-area students, to SPECTRUM, which connects Brandeis students with children with disabilities in one-on-one and group settings, to the Prospect Hill Kids Club, which helped organize the redevelopment of a Waltham community center and after school program. According to Chen, the Waltham Group has around 1,600 volunteers.
Chen has enjoyed his experience with the Waltham Group from his first year onward. “I really felt like I was part of something great,” said Chen of his experience with other volunteers and the Department of Community Service. He feels the Waltham Group provides students with great opportunities to give back.
Chen believes Brandeis students feel connected to members of the campus community and to the broader communities of Waltham, Boston and beyond, and as such students value giving back. He wrote, “Community service is so important to the students here because they have a sense of understanding and empathy with people of all backgrounds, which only further integrates the campus together.”
Rebecca Siegel ’16 is the director of another major service group, the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo). She described her experience with the organization in an email to The Hoot. BEMCo is a student-run volunteer emergency medical service. All volunteers are certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and BEMCo offers necessary EMT training. BEMCo has around 65 volunteers. These students are on 24-hour shifts and will drop everything to respond quickly to calls.
“Being surrounded by people who are just as passionate about serving the community as you are is motivating and inspiring,” she said. “When we get called out of bed at 3 a.m., we work together in a way that shows our dedication to the Brandeis community.”
Siegel believes The Princeton Review’s ranking highlights the dedication and zeal of Brandeis students. “Brandeis students today do a great job of reaching out to the community around them,” said Siegel of the Brandeis, Waltham and global communities.
Other major service groups include Students to End Alzheimer’s Disease (SEAD), which hosts events to promote awareness and fundraise for the Alzheimer’s Association. Brandeis Global Brigades organizes an annual trip to Honduras where students provide humanitarian and medical aid to several communities. Brandeis Encourages Women in Science and Engineering (Be WiSE) aids women entering scientific fields through mentorship. The Ripple Effect promotes happiness through random acts of kindness they hope will inspire a ripple effect. Other groups include English Language Learning, Colleges Against Cancer, Mitzvah Corps and many more.
Many in the Brandeis community are celebrating this recent distinction. Chen affirmed that what matters most is “the passion and dedication that the students have, and the feeling of knowing that we’re impacting the world around us in a positive way.” Both he and Siegel stated the news of The Princeton Review’s ranking would motivate their organizations to work even harder.
Other schools included in the top ten are Loyola University Maryland, Boston College, Creighton University, Tulane University, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Loyola Marymount University, Pitzer College, the College of William and Mary and Pepperdine University at number 10.